What Keeps The SEC Busy - 2014: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants held its annual “Current SEC & PCAOB Developments Conference” in Washington, DC last week. Speakers were on hand from all of the major accounting agencies or standard-setters: the SEC, the PCAOB, the FASB, and the IASB. With total attendance in excess of 1,000 accounting types, it’s the December “carnival of accountants.” Festivities ensue. The conference attendees will be toiling away on annual 10-K filings when the calendar flips – preparers working on them from the inside, and the auditors worming their way inside to give their pass/fail opinion on what investors see on the outside. Accountants and auditors use the conference to learn what pitfalls await them, in terms of what issues most concern the SEC and PCAOB. The conference serves as an early warning system for accountants and auditors alike: learning what the SEC is most interested in will let them reinforce their reporting and auditing efforts where they’re most needed and perhaps allow them to escape some SEC review comments later. Investors should benefit from this conference, too – if they care about the preparer reporting issues that worry regulators and auditors. Investors are supposed to be a skeptical lot, but you have to know something before you can be skeptical – and some of the topics covered in this conference help build their knowledge base. That’s usually the case – but this year, investors might get the chills from more than the wintry Washington weather. It was easy to get the impression that standard setters and regulators are more concerned with disclosure effectiveness and overload rather than formulating standards and disclosures that will give investors fresh information about a company’s financial status or how it performed. “What keeps the SEC busy” over the next twelve months might be more about lightening corporate workloads than improving investor information.
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